A few hours from Arequipa is the Colca Canyon, the deepest Canyon in the world at more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Incan and Pre-Incan terraces line the mountains and are still used for farming today. We were excited to be doing a two day trip there with promises of seeing the Andean Condor, llamas and their cousin the vicuña. Can you believe we have been in South America for 5 weeks and are yet to see a llama or alpaca?!

We were climbing higher and higher and passed 4900m altitude, at which point everyone in the van immediately fell asleep for 5 minutes. A few stop offs to admire the view, drink coca tea and ooh and aaah at baby llamas and we arrived in Chivay, small town with a very traditional feel. Spending the afternoon in the hot springs did nothing to prepare us for the freezing night. The hotel had no heating, the receptionists swanned around in blankets clutching cups of tea and despite the equivalent of 5 alpacas on the bed we slept in everything we own, including hat and gloves. Fredy gleefully told us that the Inca Trail is 6 degrees colder, so I promptly bought an extra jumper from the local market.

At 6am we shivered our way up towards the Condors viewing point. A hike got the blood flowing and we settled down, cameras at the ready, to wait for these impressive birds. And waited. And waited.

An hour or so later, whether it was due to the rising thermals being warm enough or that there was now a sizeable audience waiting, they soared into view and put on a show for us. The Condors are the worlds largest flying bird and are absolutely huge. Being vultures they eat carrion rather than hunt, although when food is scarce their trick is to fly alongside cows and scare them off the side of a cliff!

They ducked and dived over the crowd to show off their wingspan and soon there were 7 in the air around us. With the early morning sun on the canyon as the backdrop it was a fantastic sight.

It was so refreshing to be away from cities and buses for a few days and now my feet are itching to start the Inca Trail. The travelling on this tour can be relentless at times with so much ground to cover. It will be great to get out into the landscape and use those walking boots I’ve been lugging around.

Next stop > Cusco

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